Every year, millions of visitors choose to spend their holidays by skipping the tree and stockings and instead brave the crowds for an exciting and magical trip to Disney. There are lots of sites at all the parks to choose from, each with their unique array of lights, trees and winter wonders.

If you’re planning on a magical holiday, we have one piece of advice for you: make a plan to arrive to every show, parade, and event an hour early…and then get there even earlier.

Walt Disney World Holiday Celebrations


© Disney


There are honestly more celebrations at Disney than one could list. Rest assured that anywhere you turn, there will be holiday cheer. Here are some highlights.

Hollywood Studios: Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
disney-holiday-celebrations1November 7 – January 4

It’s hard to describe the feeling of seeing millions of lights covering every piece of space down the Streets of America at Hollywood Studios. Even harder to describe is just how amazing it is when they all jump to life in synchronization with music.

Epcot: Holidays Around the World and Candlelight Processional
November 28 – December 30

Joyeux Noel! Feliz Navidad! God Jul! Travel around the world and learn traditions and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus, Père Noël, Los Tres Reyes Magos, from each country in the Epcot World Showcase. Learn about New Years celebrations in Japan and China and about Ramadan in Morocco.

Three times every night, a celebrity narrator will tell the biblical story of Christmas as an orchestra and choir provide moving vocals to back up the story. Again, arrive early – very early, or splurge on a dinner package that includes reserved seating.

Magic Kingdom: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party

Select nights November 7 – December 19

Disney-Holiday-Celebrations2To get into MVMCP, you’ll need a separate admission ticket purchased in advance for a certain date. These tickets allow you to get in from 4 PM – midnight and enjoy special decorations, parades, fireworks, shows, meet & greets, snow fall, and lots and lots of complimentary cookies and hot cocoa.

Be aware – if you’re not going to a Christmas party but are in the park on the day of one, you will be kicked out at 7 PM. If you visit on non-party nights, you’ll still be able to see the castle decked out in icicles – can you guess which Princess helps out? It must take magic to get those decorations up – the castle alone is covered in 300,000 lights.

Animal Kingdom: Jingle Jungle Parade

November 9 – January 2 at 3:45 PM

Since Animal Kingdom always closes earlier than the other parks (hey, the animals need their beauty sleep) there’s not at much happening to commemorate the holidays here. However, the afternoon Jammin’ Jungle parade becomes the Jingle Jungle parade, which has Christmas-y decorations on the floats and outfits of the characters.

Disney Resorts

Disney-Holiday-Celebrations-3If you need a break from a park, it’s always a good idea to hop on a bus, monorail or boat to get to the nearest resort, even if you’re not staying on property. All properties will have some decorations, but the Grand Floridian Hotel is a must-see, with a 1,000 square foot gingerbread house and rotating gingerbread carousel. The Grand Flo’s 3-story-tall tree may be outdone by the Animal Kingdom Lodge, where safari-style decorations covers 4 stories of tree. And don’t miss the 17-foot gingerbread tree at the Contemporary Resort.

“Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade” photo © Disney courtesy http://wdwnews.com/ by photographer Matt Stroshane.